In our mission to make sure everyone in Michigan is food secure, we often highlight others who are making a difference in their everyday work. One of those people is Sharon Toth, CEO of the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), and a proud partner of Gleaners Community Food Bank and the Food Bank Council of Michigan.
Toth has worked with dairy farmers for more than 30 years. Through the UDIM they provide a food product that’s nutritious, available, and helps employ a portion of our state. Toth says for farmers it’s about much more than just making money. It’s about making an impact.
“There isn’t anything closer to our farmers’ hearts than feeding people,” Toth says. “With an average of eight grams of high quality protein per cup, milk is such an ideal product to apply to the food bank system.”
Milk is the number one requested item by the families and individuals we serve. In the past, Gleaners distributed barely one truckload of milk per month, but after learning how great the need was, we got to work to increase our distribution. We now distribute eight full truckloads of milk every month (about 34,000 gallons) across southeast Michigan and we’re continuing to add to this program to distribute even more to children and families through our mobile pantry programs.
That would not be possible without the UDIM’s help and their willingness to find ways to distribute milk. Over the last three years, UDIM has been responsible for helping the Food Bank Council of Michigan and seven member Feeding America food banks distribute more than five million servings of milk.
“They say it takes a village, well it takes a state and it has been all of the food banks across the state working together to get more milk to our children,” Toth says. “It’s just warms my heart.”
The UDIM was also instrumental in helping to get healthy products to the community of Flint during the water crisis.
“Full tummies are important for kids so they don’t absorb the lead,” Toth says. “Calcium also competes with lead for absorption by the body, so dairy is critical.”
Backed with that information, the Michigan Milk Producers Association directed tankers and truckloads full of milk to the Eastern Michigan Food Bank within the first week that news broke about the water crisis.
“Our farmers are very generous,” Toth says. “They care about kids.”
Through a partnership with the milk producers and the UDIM, the Eastern Michigan Food Bank has been able to provide milk in large quantities to sustain families beyond the crisis.
These partnerships are what make our state truly unique. Working together, we’ll keep doing more and better until we achieve our goal of ending hunger. To learn more, listen to the Food First podcast on this topic here.